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Grace Note: Lindsay Russell

Coloratura Soprano, Lindsay Russell

With a whirlwind schedule taking her from Seattle to Hong Kong to NYC and back again, Lindsay Russell is heading full steam ahead toward a bright career in opera. I caught up with the effervescent coloratura soprano this week in New York City to catch up on life, music, and of course… food.

I found the petite, blonde soprano sitting amongst a sea of people at Columbus Circle’s Bouchon Bakery. “I think we might be better somewhere else?” hinted Lindsay politely before we headed to the Le Pain Qoutidien on 7th Ave “this is so much better!”

When talking about music Lindsay’s face immediately lights up; when it comes to other singers, the soprano admires the skilled pyrotechnics of those whose repertoire she is currently tackling. “I go through singer phases, where I can’t listen to enough of them, but there are a few who have stood the test of time. I’ll pretty much always pick a Joan Sutherland recording over the others.  I’m a big fan of Diana Damrau, and also love watching Natalie Dessay’s videos on youtube.  Hmmm, I also love Edita Gruberova, Barbara Bonney, and Renata Scotto… I could go on but I won’t.”

Miss Russell in a 2008 Master Class with New York City Opera star, Lauren Flanigan

Lindsay describes a recent trip to China for a concert with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra as one filled with pleasant surprises. “I am definitely not used to that kind of treatment!” laughs Lindsay. “Everything about it was so amazing, I just can’t believe how well they took care of me, from the work visa to transportation, they were just incredible.” Miss Russell was the only soloist invited for an 11-11-11 concert themed “2011- A Space Odyssey” with the HKPO. “The funny thing is, they already had the program selected for the concert, but wanted to include an aria from Haydn’s Il Mondo Della Luna and the Queen Of The Night arias from The Magic Flute…”  The current Chief Executive Director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra is none other than Michael MacLeod, the former General and Artistic Director of Glimmerglass Opera, where Lindsay made her debut as Laurie in Aaron Copland’s “The Tender Land”,  which garnered her praise by Opera News and The New York Times. It was Michael MacLeod who suggested the talented singer make her debut in front of a crowd no less than 20,000 people.

About that.  “The actual concert was such a great experience and what a production! They managed to  actually sync fireworks to go off while the Orchestra played Johan Strauss II’s The Blue Danube. I’ve never experienced anything like that! Also, its such a different culture… I was really surprised how many YOUNG people were there. Whole groups of teenagers just hanging out at the classical music concert like it was the cool thing to do. They were even asking for my autograph after, again, not something I’m used to!” 

Lindsay with Mezzo-Soprano J'nai Bridges at Glimmerglass Opera

Miss Russell, a foodie in the making, also has no qualms over trying new and unusual things. “Oh, I’ll try anything once!”  she exclaims. When discussing her favorite place to eat in New York City, Joe’s Shanghai in Chinatown, Lindsay loves to explain her initial thoughts and eventual love affair with the local eatery. “I really wanted to hate it there, because it’s just always so busy, but I can’t stay away!  The food is so so good, I’m actually meeting my roommates there tonight for dinner.  And FYI – the one in Chinatown is clearly superior to the one in midtown, and it’s also significantly cheaper.  Plus, only in Chinatown do you get the experience of sharing your table with six other strangers. ”  The Chinatown favorite features one of the soprano’s favorite eats. Soup Dumplings. The tasty treats almost always require a tutorial for newcomers, that is, unless you WANT to spill out all of the delicious filling.

A feisty Susanna, Lindsay Russell pictured with Bass Baritone, Robert Mellon in Manhattan School of Music's 2010 production of Le Nozze di Figaro

When it comes to what composers the soprano loves singing, and those she wishes she could just get more of, the response is immediate and almost obvious. “Strauss! Once I conquer a Strauss piece, it is incredibly rewarding to sing.  I just sang Zerbinetta for the first time in public this week, for an audition, and it was so much fun. I never tire of Mozart, which is good, because hopefully I’ll be singing that repertoire for the rest of my life.  I also am completely obsessed with singing Bach.  I wish someone would hire me to sing Bach all day long.”

 Of her summers at Glimmerglass, Lindsay definitely has an abundance of great things to say about her time with the company. “My last two summers there were a lot of fun.  I love sitting on the back porch of the Otesaga Hotel, sipping a cocktail and eating snack mix in a wooden rocking chair.  I love “wrong rep night,” where everyone in the program sings and performs the most inappropriate things we can imagine.   

A candid Glimmerglass moment: Lindsay chatting with mezzo-soprano J'nai Bridges and colleagues

“Some of my truly favorite moments happened backstage” she continues.  “My first year there, I sang Laurie in the Tender Land, and at the end of every performance, Andrew Stenson, Mark Diamond and I had a big group hug right before we went on for bows.”

You may call her sentimental, but don’t underestimate Lindsay’s preparedness on keeping a box of Kleenex nearby. “One of my favorite moments from last summer was during the first orchestra rehearsal for Annie Get Your Gun.” (The Francesca Zambello directed production starred operatic superstar Debbie Voigt.) “Most broadway orchestras are small – no more than twenty or so people – so hearing wonderful Glimmerglass Orchestra performing the overture brought me to tears.”

Currently, Miss Russell is spending the year as a young artist with Seattle Opera. And though the soprano admits that being away from loved ones can be difficult, its evident that living with two of her best friends, tenor Andrew Stenson and mezzo-soprano Sarah Larsen definitely helps. “There is rarely a dull moment in our house!”  

Lindsay as Sophie in Massenet's Werther sings to the incredibly talented mezzo-soprano, Sarah Larsen at Seattle Opera: Photo Credit, Bill Mohn

And Seattle Opera itself? “I love the coaching staff!  I’m learning so much from them, I feel like I should be paying them, and not the other way around! I also adore my colleagues.  With a program this small (nine people), it could be a bad experience if we didn’t all get along.  Luckily, everyone there is not only ridiculously talented, but also kind and humble.” 

Miss Russell will be spending the 2012 summer season as an apprentice singer with the Santa Fe Opera covering the Fiakermilli in Strauss’s Arabella. You can watch Lindsay sing “I Could Have Danced All Night” from Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady by CLICKING HERE! 

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